Money Talks, So Should You

Study: Americans seek fulfillment, not riches

Brian O'Connell
by Brian O'Connell, MainStreet contributor

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When the Beatles recorded Can’t Buy Me Love 50 years ago, who knew the Fab Four were financial prophets, way ahead of their time?

As it turns out, Americans say that not only money can’t buy you love, it can’t buy you fulfillment, either.

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Let’s go to the American Express LifeTwist Study for an explanation.

The study, released May 17, shows that success is not defined by dollar signs, but by “lifetime experiences.” Amex dubs this sentiment as a “life twister” — meaning "success" is defined by many Americans as lifetime experience, detours and passions — not cash.

In fact, “having money” ranked 20th out of 22 “successful life factors” compiled by American Express.

What’s more, 81 percent of Americans, according to the survey, say how you spend your money is more important than how much money you accumulate. And 72 percent say they would rather pour their financial resources into lifetime experiences than a big house or a luxury vehicle.

Maybe that’s due to changing attitudes coming out of the Great Recession, which was a real emotional gut check for millions of Americans. Whatever the reason, money has become secondary these days.

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“Today, Americans say that feeling successful is driven less by the amount of money they earn, and more by having a job they love, rewarding relationships and contributing to their communities,” says Josh Silverman, president of the consumer services division at American Express.

Here’s how the study ranks lifetime “fulfillment” priorities among U.S. adults:

  • Being in good health (85 percent)
  • Finding time for the important things in life (83 percent)
  • Having a good marriage/relationship (81 percent)
  • Knowing how to spend money well (81 percent)
  • Having a good work/personal life balance (79 percent)
  • Having a job you love (75 percent)
  • Making time to pursue passions and interest (69 percent)
  • Being physically fit (66 percent)
  • Always trying to learn and do new things (65 percent)
  • Embracing new experiences/changes (65 percent)

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Interestingly, most American adults and 79 percent of baby boomers say their life is “still a work in progress.” More and more U.S. adults say they are more open to “veering off” their life paths to try new experiences and experiment with change.

The Amex study also includes a “bucket list” of experiences Americans would like to, well, experience. The survey ranks them as follows:

  • Traveling to new places (88 percent)
  • Having children (76 percent)
  • Pursuing passions as a hobby or career (75 percent)
  • Volunteering time for a cause you believe in (70 percent)
  • Doing something with your hands (60 percent)

That doesn’t mean Americans don’t like money. According to the study, 57 percent of Americans still want to be rich, according to the study, but in relative terms the lust for wealth across the fruited plains is in decline.


Brian O’Connell has 15 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health care and career management sectors. He has written 14 books and appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, C-Span, Bloomberg, CBS Radio and other media outlets and in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and The He is a former Wall Street bond trader.